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Harry Fonseca (Nisenan Maidu/Hawaiian/Portuguese) was born in Sacramento, California, in 1946, and raised in the nearby town of Bryte. Fonseca attended Sacramento City College and California State University, Sacramento, where he studied for a time, with Frank LaPena. During this period, Fonseca also became more involved with his Native California heritage, especially the Maidu dance tradition, all of which helped him to grow as an artist.

Although Fonseca considers himself to be largely self-taught, he cites the dual artistic influences of his uncle, Henry Azbill, and the Konkow Maidu artist Frank Day. Fonseca's early paintings explored the Coyote trickster, the Maidu creation story, St. Francis of Assisi, rock art, and in 1997, when he offered a Native perspective on California's sesquicentennial with his series The Discovery of Gold in California The genocide and destruction of California Indian cultures that followed the gold rush. Fonseca painted these canvases in the open air of the Sierra foothills, where his ancestors had lived for generations.

"Being in the environment in that country, feeling the energy of the land, gave me a chance to work with the subject matter on a different level than before. The upheaval that took place on all levels was the catalyst for this body of work. It started with the land and Native American cultures that were disrupted if not destroyed, and evolved into how the Gold Rush affected everybody. The drama just grew and grew." Harry Fonseca, The Discovery of Gold in California, Oakland Museum of California (1998).

Fonseca's art has been shown both nationally and internationally, including Japan, Germany, Italy and Austria. In 2003, Fonseca was invited to participate in the National Museum of the American Indian's Continuum--12 Artists show, to which he contributed "New Paintings," a set of two distinct series entitled "Seasons" and "Stripes." Fonseca's most recent exhibition, "California Stories," was shown in 2004 at Santa Fe's Institute of American Indian Arts Museum. Fonseca, who now resides in Santa Fe, was honored in April 2004 with the Allan Houser Memorial Award, which is presented to an American Indian who has achieved outstanding artistic success and community involvement.